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Leolo (1992)
04. May 2002 at 19:08
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Léolo (1992)
Directed by Jean-Claude Lauzon (Canada)
Boy actors: Maxime Collin, Francis St-Onge, Eric Cadorette

What can I say? Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! This film is definitely on my personnal Top 10 list of boy movies.

I like this film above all for its sheer visual and lyrical poetry. For that reason, I suspect that it will be most appreciated by those who understand French and don't have to rely on the subtitles. (Note: there are at least two different subtitled versions of the film - the original French with English subtitles and another version in which the French narration was replaced by English narration with a heavy French Canadian accent. I would advise all to stay away from that version, unless you really hate reading subtitles. The accent is annoying and the narrator doesn't have that deep drony voice that, I thought, was an important part of setting the tone in the original.)

The film tells the story of Léo Lauzon, who prefers to be called Léolo Lozone, a name he invented based on a fantasy of his in which his mother is accidentally impregnated by the semen of an Italian after falling into a bunch of tomatoes. Sounds crazy? It is - but you have to see it to get it.

Léolo's family includes: a grand-father with homicidal tendencies, an older brother who builds his muscles so the bully on the street will leave him alone, a couple of sisters both mildly insane, a father who is obsessed with defecation and a very fat but loving mother, who seems to be the only adjusted individual in the family.

Léolo doesn't fit in, and he spends most of his time dreaming of Sicily and the Sicilian girl next door, and writing an amazingly poetic and eloquent diary. Instead of keeping the pages, he throws them out as he writes them, and they are read by a man who goes through the garbage of the neighbourhood looking for old letters and photographs.

There is so much more going on in this film, but I'd rather leave it up to you to discover. At times funny, heartbreaking and disturbing, this is a beautiful coming-of-age tale that is doomed to end in tragedy. Some of the humor is rather scatophilic (there are an amazing number of references to shit), and yet the film remains beautifully poetical throughout - an apparent paradox which may be at the heart of the film's genius.

My only reproach to this film is that it seems to lose its focus in the last half-hour. I would rather not have seen some of the scenes showing Léolo's descent into debauchery, but I guess they serve a purpose in that they lead to the inevitable tragic ending. I am definitely not the kind of person who demands a happy ending - I would much rather see a film reach it's logical or most appropriate conclusion, whether it be happy or sad - but in this case it seems so devastating that I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Maxime Collin (a popular child actor in Quebec) is in the lead, but often overlooked are Francis St-Onge (who plays Léolo at age six) and Eric Cadorette (another popular Quebec kid), who appears briefly at the end a disturbing scene involving beastiality.

There are several pictures on Star Galaxy, though most are of rather poor quality. Here are a few samples I found elsewhere (first Maxim Collin and then Éric Cadorette):

images expired

(Edited by josephk at 1:10 am on May 5, 2002)
« Last Edit: 07. Jul 2008 at 06:17 by Zabladowski »  
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Reply #1 - 07. May 2002 at 11:44
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I've seen this movie several times. It's excellent but not a film for everybody and some scenes are rather disturbing. Maxime Collin is perfect as Leolo, he not only looks great but gives a fine performance. The narration in French is superb and quite beautiful. This is a must see movie.
« Last Edit: 07. Jul 2008 at 06:17 by Zabladowski »  
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Reply #2 - 11. May 2002 at 09:42
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From the film
LÉOLO (French-Canadian, 1992)
by Jean-Claude Lauzon


Parce que moi je rêve, moi je ne le suis pas,
Parce que je rêve, je rêve,
Parce que je m'abandonne la nuit dans mes rêves,
Avant qu'on ne me laisse le jour,
Parce que je n'aime pas,
Parce que j'ai eu peur d'aimer,
Je ne rêve plus, je ne rêve plus.
Because I dream, I am not,
Because I dream, I dream,
Because at night I abandon myself to my dreams,
Before I receive the day,
Because I don't love,
Because I was afraid to love,
I no longer dream,
I no longer dream.


The setting: a classroom full of French-Canadian students practicing
their English lessons. In unison, the children repeat: "John has one
nose, John has two ears, John has two legs, John has ten fingers....".
Leolo stares a this fingers and the narrator speaks:

John and Mary were our guides through English.  They were models of propriety.
At school, I thought I was the only one upset - the only one anxious
because some details were missing on John's and Tin Tin's bodies.

The setting switches to Leolo's bathroom, where he is examining himself
with a mirror between his legs

At 12, I knew what "nose" meant in English, and that the Congo was a
former Belgian colony in Africa. But nobody talked about that tail that
swelled between my legs. It was absent on the chart of John's organs. I
didn't know the English or French word for this thing, and for a long
time, I believed the Anglos didn't have any.


Bianca mon amour,
Mon bel amour
Mon seul amour,
Mon italie.
Bianca, my love,
My beautiful love
My only love,
My Italy.


The setting: a large group of boys in a filthy apartment - smoking,
drinking beer and sniffing glue. They are chanting "Coward, coward". A
twelve year-old, in a near stupor shouts, "I wouldn't dare?! Put 5 bucks
on the table and I'll do it. You guys don't have the balls". As all the
boys contribute their money and with the Rolling Stones' "You Can't
Always Get What You Want" in the background, the narrator starts:

Tonight, Buddy Godin will be late for home.
His mom will check his fingers - she's worried her son might be smoking on the sly.
No, Madame Godin, your son crappity smacks anything that moves. His dick is eaten
by bugs. He swallows any pill he can just to forget you.
That bath you force him to take before church on Sunday just serves him
to prostitute himself with his hockey coach. White meat sells better.
But no - don't worry - he doesn't smoke. It makes him choak.

the money and a cat are put on the table...the boys chant "Go, go, go"

Sex I discovered between ignorance and horror. Deep down, we all knew
that money was just a pretext, and that he'd do it anyway. The betting
just de-fanged the fear.

the boy looks the others in the eye

The poor cat didn't defend herself - she'd been de-clawed. Madame
Oinnette took good care of her curtains. How lucky you are, Milou
(Snowy), that Tin Tin didn't have Buddy Godin for a neighbour.


Vous la dame,
Vous l'audacieuse melancolie,
Qui d'un cri solitaire fendez ma chair que vous offrez à l'ennui,
Vous qui hantez mes nuits quand je ne sais plus,
Quel chemin prendre de ma vie,
Je vous ai paye cent fois mon du.
You my lady,
Bold melancholy,
Solitary cry piercing my flesh,
Offering it to ennui,
Haunting my nights when I no longer know,
Which may my life should go,
I have paid you back a hundredfold.


(Edited by hosenhaus at 1:12 am on Nov. 17, 2002)
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Reply #3 - 11. May 2002 at 11:26
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Thanks for the poems, Hosenhaus.

I have a bit of trivia surrounding this film that I wanted to include in my review, but it must have slipped my mind.

1. Ginette Reno, who plays Léolo's mother, is a popular singer in Quebec. When she was offered this role, she didn't want to do it at first because the setting reminded her too much of her difficult childhood. Director J.C. Lauzon kept insisting until she finally caved in. I'm not a fan of her as a singer, but she does a great job in this film.

2. In the scene where Leolo is looking at the uncooked liver and his mother hits him in the back of the head, telling him not to play with the food, it wasn't in the script that his face would actually hit the liver. Ginette hit Maxime a bit harder than he expected. After the scene, he went to another room and broke down in tears. Ginette felt really bad about it, gave him a big hug to comfort him and apologized for having hit him.

3. Director J.C. Lauzon died in a plane crash a few years ago with his fiancé, who was also a popular Quebec actress. He only had time to do two films in his brief carreer. The other one (made before Léolo) is called Un Zoo la Nuit. I haven't seen it but I am told it is quite good (although I don't think it involves any boys).

4. The book that Léolo reads from throughout the film is L'avalée des avalés, by Réjean Ducharme. Although the films is supposed to be somewhat autobiographical, Lauzon was obviously heavily inspired by Ducharme's work, in terms subject matter, style and lyricism. Ducharme is a brilliant author, his work is beautiful, inspiring, tragic and poetic - and I discovered it when I first saw Léolo. Some of his novels may have been translated in English, but I really only recommend them if you can read the original French (not because I don't believe in translations - I've read German, Russian, Italian and Spanish novels in translation and enjoyed them - but in this case, there is so much word-play and comments on the language itself within the novel that I don't know if it is possible to translate it).

Although Ducharme's novels are often about children or childhood, and sometimes narrated by children, his protagonists are usually girls, except in Le nez qui voque, which is narrated by a 16-year-old boy who has remained an 8-year-old at heart and is afraid to become an adult.

(Edited by josephk at 5:29 pm on May 11, 2002)

(Edited by josephk at 5:31 pm on May 11, 2002)
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Re: Léolo
Reply #4 - 01. May 2006 at 05:51
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Great poetry!  Thanks for sharing such inspiring words of a motion picture that is certainly appreciated.

Léolo is definitely a remarkable film.  Reading this thread, it is amazing to re-think the scenes viewed several times in the past.  (i.e. the mother slapping her son and causing his face to hit the liver.... thanks Joseph).

Amidst all the junk that can be found in dvd extras, it's nice to read and see poignant info regarding the films we love.

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